Diseases & Conditions

Female Urinary Incontinence

What is Urinary Incontinence?

Urinary incontinence is a common condition which causes bladder control issues and leads to uncontrollable urine leakage.

Usually, our bladder stores urine until it is full, then the brain sends a signal that it is time to use the toilet. Urine then leaves the bladder and flows into the urethra when a muscle opens, without any leakage.

If you have urinary incontinence this process doesn’t work properly. This can be caused by a number of things.

Whilst urinary incontinence is common as we age, it is a misconception that it is normal part of the ageing and can’t be treated.

Incontinence can have a negative impact on your life and many people find it embarrassing. However, there are many effective and minimally invasive treatment options available.

Learn more about the diagnosis and treatment of urinary incontinence here.

Types of Urinary Incontinence

There are several different types of urinary incontinence, each with different causes, symptoms and triggers, including:

Overflow incontinence: Overflow incontinence means that the bladder is never completely emptied, and small amounts of urine leak over time. It is common in people with conditions like diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

Stress incontinence: This is leakage caused by activities such as laughing, sneezing or jumping which put pressure on the bladder. The pelvic floor muscles cannot support the pelvic organs properly and muscle weakness leads to accidental urine leakage. Stress incontinence is common in women who have given birth.

Urge incontinence: This is an urgent need to immediately urinate and happens before you can reach the toilet, leading to leaks. It can be caused by an overactive bladder, which can be the result of weak pelvic muscles, an infection, nerve damage, or low estrogen levels post-menopause. Caffeine and some medications can cause an overactive bladder.

Mixed incontinence: Caused by a combination of problems, including stress incontinence and an overactive bladder. Identifying the triggers that lead to leakage can be an effective way of managing the condition.

Who is at Risk of Urinary Incontinence?

Incontinence is more common in women than men mainly due to the effects of pregnancy and childbirth on the pelvic muscles, and after menopause due to the effect of hormones on bladder control.

Age is a risk factor for incontinence, as our muscles that support pelvic organs weaken as we get older. This risk is increased if you have given birth, gone through menopause, or had prostate issues.

What Causes Urinary Incontinence?

There are lots of causes of urinary incontinence. Some cases may be caused by temporary illnesses, which will go away after some time. Other cases are caused by chronic conditions which need to be managed long-term.

Short-term causes:

  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs): An infection in the urinary tract can increase the need to urinate more often. The urge goes away once the UTI is treated.
  • Pregnancy: Pregnancy causes extra pressure on the bladder and the urge to urinate more often.
  • Medications: Incontinence is a side effect of some drugs such as diuretics and antidepressants.
  • Beverages: Some drinks, such as coffee and alcohol, can increase the need and frequency of urination.
  • Constipation: Chronic constipation can lead to bladder control problems.

Long-term causes include:

  • Pelvic floor disorders: Pelvic floor muscle issues can impact the function of the bladder.
  • Stroke: A stroke can affect the muscles that control the urinary system.
  • Diabetes: Diabetics produce more urine which can lead to leakage. Peripheral neuropathy can also affect bladder function.
  • Menopause: Hormonal changes and weaken pelvic floor muscles related to age can lead to leakage.
  • Multiple sclerosis: This condition can cause a loss of bladder control.
  • Enlarged prostate: A larger than normal prostate in men can cause bladder control problems.

What are the Symptoms of Urinary Incontinence?

  • Leakage of urine is the main symptom of incontinence. It may be a continuous dripping or small or large amounts of leakage.
  • Leaking may happen when you jump, run, laugh, cough or sneeze.
  • Other symptoms may include the urge to go but being unable to make it to the bathroom on time or having to get up frequently at night to use the toilet.

Diagnosing and Treating Urinary Incontinence

Treatment options for urinary incontinence range from minor lifestyle changes and physical therapy to minimally invasive surgical procedures such as the state-of-the-art sacral neuromodulation technique for an overactive bladder.

Learn more about the diagnosis and treatment of urinary incontinence here

Effective Treatment Options for Urinary Incontinence are Available.

Urinary incontinence may be a common condition, but you don’t have to put up with it. Take control of your bladder and talk to the Female Urology Program team at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. Led by an experienced female urologist, the program offers routine and complex care options for the treatment of a range of female urological concerns.

© Copyright 2017 Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. All rights reserved.

This information is provided by Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, part of Mubadala Healthcare, and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.

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